The Eighth Day

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Rom 8:21)

God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. (Rev 1:3)

I encountered both these scriptures during my prayer time this morning. I was trying to center; however, my monkey mind launched into chatter. Soon I noticed a pattern to the chatter and saw that it was taking a direction.

Recently, I have joined GreenFaith—an ecumenical movement to care for God’s creation. I have been reading Bill McKibben’s Eaarth and plan to attend his tour presentation “Do the Math!” in Atlanta tomorrow night ( . Continue reading

The Cosmic Christ

I read an inspiring reflection today on seeing Jesus in our lives ( Of  late, I have not been one to slip into the Jesus as my personal savior stream. I am more inclined toward, “Jesus then. Christ now.” The Cosmic Christ is a power in the cosmos working toward good.

The risen Christ takes on a cosmic dimension which I am coming to embrace more and more as I read Matt Fox’s Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for our Times. [Hildegard now joins Catherine of Sienna and the two T[h]eresas as a doctor in the church.] The cosmic includes the personal but takes us far beyond the personal as Holy Wisdom connects us with creation and the cosmos. Wisdom is the goddess at work before the dawn of creation. Eventually we came to understand that the Holy Spirit, hovering over the primordial foam, is the Wisdom of the Godhead. Continue reading

Existentialism and Faith

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,

and naked shall I go back again.

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;

blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Job was quietly going about his luxurious life when God took Satan up on his challenge. In one fell swoop Job lost everything–cattle, sheep, camels and all who tended them as well as his entire family. This is a tragedy of epic proportions as the author tries to delve the depths of life and sin.

I have been teaching a class in the Institute of Continuing Learning at nearby Young Harris College as well as two sessions on Paul, John and Mary in Ephesus in adult formation at church. The latter led to side discussions on the roles of women in the early church as well as the re-emergence of the feminine divine. Now I have some time to post on a more regular basis.

Reading Job in the light of my class on Sartre and Camus has led me to conclude that Job may have been an early existentialist. Look at the passage above. Also consider the Sartrean nature of the following:

Obliterate the day I was born.

    Blank out the night I was conceived!

Let it be a black hole in space.

    May God above forget it ever happened.

    Erase it from the books!

May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness,

    shrouded by the fog,

    swallowed by the night.

And the night of my conception—the devil take it!

Later in the same chapter (3) Job says:

What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense,

    when God blocks all the roads to meaning?

24-26 “Instead of bread I get groans for my supper,

    then leave the table and vomit my anguish.

The worst of my fears has come true,

    what I’ve dreaded most has happened.

My repose is shattered, my peace destroyed.

    No rest for me, ever—death has invaded life.

“Vomit my anguish” took us right back to Sartre’s novel, Nausea.

Then I stumbled upon a piece of wisdom literature, Ecclesiastes 1 and 2:

These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]

    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.

What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,

    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?

One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,

    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old

        planet earth.

The sun comes up and the sun goes down,

    then does it again, and again—the same old round.

. . .

Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing.

There is being and nothingness in the Bible. Life is seen at times as absurd, lacking in any meaning.

Merton, the mystic, was an existential monk who understood that God was to be found in his own lived experience, not in formulated creeds and orthodoxy. Like the atheistic existentialists, Merton embraced the nothingness of existence; however, like Job in the first passage cited, Merton found hope and meaning in his own nothingness:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our will.  This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.  It is, so to speak, His name written in us.  As our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our son-ship, it is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven.  It is in everybody.  And if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.  I have no program for this seeing; is it only given.  But the Gate of Heaven is everywhere. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

Like Job, he could say, “Blessed be God” regardless of what was happening in his life. Merton was ever aware of God’s presence as he lived out his call to be conformed to the image of God within which was his face before he was born. Amid angst, alienation, commodification of stuff in a materialistic world and despair, Merton grounded his hope in the incarnate One who emptied himself (kenosis) in loving:

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

August 6

Writing about the idolatry of power, violence and war in the National Catholic Reporter, John Dear said:

That might be our greatest problem. We Americans have deluded ourselves into thinking we can have both. We can have God and nukes, God and money, God and Wall Street, God and empire, God and weapons of war. The psalmist, and the Berrigans, insist it’s one or the other. God does not allow for other gods. The minute we give in to our worship of these false gods, we reject the living God of peace. Then we continue further down the path of spiritual death.

The psalmist (Psalm 115) names the idols as inhuman and ungodly, and the idolaters as inhuman and ungodly, too. We need to name the idols of today as inhuman and ungodly, too, and help each other resist the culture’s idolatry so that we can become more human and more Godly. ( Continue reading


The feast of St. James reminds us of the phenomenon of pilgrimage. Annually, thousands of pilgrims make the Camino across northern Spain to the cathedral of St. James in Santiago. Likewise, thousands of Muslims annually make the pilgrimage to the Kaba in Mecca. Pious Muslims experience their pilgrimage as a resurrection. For hundreds of years, Celtic monks journeyed to find the place of their resurrection. Catherine Doherty in Proustinia describes Russian holy people who do pilgrimage “for those who have no holy restlessness and who do not want to arise and seek God.” (20)

Sacred journeys are transformative; they quench our holy restlessness—our hearts are restless until they rest in God (Augustine of Hippo). Merton considered pilgrimage to be an inner journey in search of finding his true self. Muhammad believed, contrary to Western stereotypes, that the greater jihad was the internal struggle of iman–internalizing the core of Islamic belief and practice into our daily lives. Merton relied a great deal on the work of Muslim Reza Aresteh on Final Integration to shape his mystical belief in the emergence of the true self.

As in Western theology, Allah is transcendent and imminent. Tanzih refers to God as unknowable; tashin speaks of God as manifest in creatures and creation. Speaking of Allah as manifest, Merton taught the novices in his charge about the 99 names of Allah. More importantly he told them that each person has a name by which Allah is known and by which Allah knows the person. As I was listening to Merton’s talk, my consciousness was jolted as the word “Beloved” exploded within me. It was a powerful God-experience. I am the Beloved of God and God is my Beloved who leaps over hills and bounds over crags to enter into union with me. Knowing I am “Beloved” puts me on a new leg on my pilgrimage. Knowing the Beloved and being known as the Beloved, in the words of Paul in Ephesians, is now “rooting and grounding” me in what Rohr describes as deep abundance. I know the truth (1 Jn 2:21)–I am Beloved.

On our journey, our greatest struggle is indeed with what Paul called “the flesh,” not the body as such but rather the false self seeking meaning and fulfillment apart from God and godly service to humankind. We have to let go. We have to stop seeking false truth. We have to stop putting our ladder of success against the wrong wall and climbing nowhere.

I think the religious metamyth that cuts across all credal boundaries is that we are more than we are. We can become more than what we are. Pilgrimage is then the journey to become what we are in the imago Dei–the image of God in which we came into being. Our experiences along the way, whether it be the hajj, the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage in search of resurrection, or the proustinia’s trek, help us to become what we are. Eastern Christian theology says that God became human so that we might become divine. Pilgrimage is a transformative process.

We journey on with hope in our hearts knowing that the trials along the way are refining us like fire refines silver. In one of his talks on Sufism, Merton told the novice monks, “Get rid of your despair. Stir up your hope.” Why? God wants you to know God so you can enter into deeper union with God. We journey in the power of the Spirit of the Living God who is calling us to be what we are. We “recite” God’s name for us and our name for God with each step we take.


The entire chapter in Lamentations 2 grips me; however, this verse laid siege to my heart:

In vain they ask their mothers,

“Where is the grain?”

As they faint away like the wounded

in the streets of the city,

And breathe their last

in their mothers’ arms.

Children dying in their mothers’ arms while we live in comfort. This happens thousands of times every day. If it is not drought and a lack of food, it is contaminated water that takes a toll. As I lament I am plagued by the picture a photographer took several years ago—a squatting, emaciated starving-to-death child being watched by a vulture. The photographer Carter “eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. ‘I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,’ he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.” (

Lamentation, like praise, has a place in our prayers. Lamentation can be a powerful tool as we just sit with tragedy and loss. Several years ago, Richard Rohr had a conference where we were invited to don sackcloth stoles and choose a place and position for lamentation. Lamentation is about sorrow,

Weeping and grieving. Faced with war and rumors of war, greedy banksters, the demise of the economy, starvation, poverty, environmental destruction, the decline of the middle class, political acrimony and the like we have plenty to grieve.

John Jacob Niles, famous Kentucky composer, and Thomas Merton, famous Kentucky monk, came together in what is known as the Niles-Merton Songs—Merton lamentation poems put to music. Kathleen Deignan describes Merton’s lament for the destruction of the environment (

Maybe we can use the famous photograph to grieve our way into action, gratitude and, eventually, blessing for all.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

In the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans which he probably wrote from Corinth, Paul castigates those who have failed to recognize God in creation. They instead have gone off to worship idols and wallow in their sin. Their salvation is in the Gospel—Christ crucified like a common criminal and resurrected to new life.

People are sometimes unaware that, besides The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton published another book in 1948—The Spirit of Simplicity: Characteristic of the Cistercian Order.  Scholars agree that Merton was the author. For him, in his early experience of Cistercian monasticism, simplicity was quite simple. Summing up the teaching of St. Bernard and the Little Exordium, Merton says:

[S]implicity consisted in getting rid of everything that did not help the monk arrive at union with God by the shortest possible way.

And the shortest possible way to arrive at union with God, who is Love, is by loving Him, in himself, and in our breather. (iii) Continue reading

The Desert

The desert—place of renewal and turning your life around. John the Baptizer went into the desert and preached repentance. People who went to John in the desert expected to see a prophet, a messenger from God. They did not go, as The Message translation says, to see a “weekend camper” or a “sheik dressed in silk pajamas.” Continue reading

Resist Now!

Jesus begins his ministry by calling people to repent. In today’s Gospel, he repeats the call to repentance twice. Thomas Keating says that repent means to change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. The programs developed by the false acquisitive, consumerist self. Not being able to get our needs met when we were growing up and emerging into adulthood led us to create false programs for happiness. Pushing the hurtful stuff deep out of sight, we found ways to satisfy our need for power and control, affection and esteem, and security. These programs have become our addictions. Jesus is calling us to authentic life, life in the true or inner self where God finds us and heals us of our addictions. Continue reading

Merton and Quarks

View across Lake Chatuge

View across Lake Chatuge

Col 1:15-20

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Jesus is the face of the Living God
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,

the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the Body, the Church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the Blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

I have been reading books by Diarmuid O’Murchu, Catching Up with Jesus and Quantum Theology. Diarmuid makes the Creator and creation comes alive as an ongoing reality. The divine continues to unfold before our very eyes. Continue reading